Blackberry Hills Farm Open Studio

A couple of weekends ago, I traveled to Wisconsin to visit the Blackberry Hills Farm open studio event. I had never been but I had come across a flyer for it at the Minnesota State Fair when I visited the booth for the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers Association.

Karin and Helen petting the farm's friendlier llamas.
Karin and Helen petting the farm’s friendlier llamas.


The cream colored llama was not a happy camper!
The cream colored llama was not a happy camper!


A stunning vista from the hill at the top of the farm, where the house and studio are located.
A stunning vista from the hill at the top of the farm, where the house and studio are located. Isn’t it beautiful?


The yarns I bought.
These are the hand-dyed yarns I bought from their studio. They are, from left to right, (1) a fingering weight sheep’s wool/mohair blend for a pair of socks; (2) an alpaca I’ll probably use to make a hat; and (3) a llama that I will definitely use to make a hat to match the socks!


Norwegian Purling

Update:  My original post from 2007 appears below.  However, to make it easier for users of mobile devices to watch the video, I am embedding a YouTube version here for you to see.  Also, “maske” is the Norwegian word for stitch in case you did not know.


Now, you may not share in the unbridled enthusiasm you are about to witness. If it turns out to be too much for you, I can only recommend that you turn away and mutter quietly to yourself “silly boy!” and go about your business.

You all know by now that I’m a relatively new knitter, though admittedly quite an enthusiastic one. In August while long-time family friends from Norway were visiting my partner’s parents, we got to spend some time with them. I’ve already posted pictures of the marvelous mittens that Berit and Turid knit as gifts for Harald and me. We enjoyed their company so much. When we were up in Lutsen with them, Berit generously offered to help me figure out how to sort a knitting problem (i.e. “knitting problem” read as “Beulah nearly destroyed a ball of wool yarn and the scarf that was taking shape at the other end of it”). Berit is an expert knitter (having done it and taught it for nearly four decades) and went to work and solved the mess in a matter of minutes. What shocked me, though, was the speed with which she knit. So she taught me how to do what I now know is called “Continental” style knitting, and which was once called “German” style knitting, at least before World War II. Having mastered Continental knit stitch, my right-hand numbness issues went away, and I could knit for long periods without any discomfort. And I knit quite a bit more quickly, too.

Now Berit also tried to show me how to purl the way she does, what I will henceforth and forevermore refer to as “Norwegian” purling. I tried to get it, but we didn’t spend much time on it. She assured me the way she purled was the common method of purling in Norway today. After they left and went home to Norway, I looked through all kinds of books, trying to find directions on how to purl the “Berit way” – all to no avail. I searched the web and found many instructions for Continental purling, but all of them were vastly different, and more complicated, than the way I saw Berit purling. I found one video for Norwegian purling, but there was no audio explanation, the video was for only one stitch, and I couldn’t figure it out from that video. Why was it so important for me to learn her particular way, you ask? What if I told you that you could learn to purl carrying the thread in the left hand, behind the work, exactly as you do for knitting in Continental style, but without moving the hands forward to form the stitch (as some Continental purl instructions recommend). For those of you who knit, is the benefit becoming clearer? To be more precise, it became obvious to me that if I could instantly change between knit and purl stitch without my hands ever leaving the needle or having to reorient anything, that it would represent a vast improvement and also provide the added benefit of more speedy knitting. Now do I have your attention? I thought so.

I wrote to Berit last week, bemoaning my lack of understanding and knowledge, and unable to find any resources to show me how to purl the way she did. And, bless her heart, do you know what she and her husband, Jan, did? They made me a digital video and burned it to a CD and sent it to me, post-haste! I got the CD (amazingly) in only a few days, on Thursday. I set every intention of sitting down with it today and figuring it out. In about 10 minutes, it finally clicked in my brain and I was able to successfully reproduce the much sought-after Norwegian purl stitch, thread in the back, no hand forward motions needed to form the stitch. I made a small gauge swatch. After several inches of that, I switched to the dreaded seed stitch, which looks so lovely but which so many people complain about making. A few more rows of that went my amazingly quickly. Then I switched to ribbing, and what a pleasure it was to instantly switch back and forth from knit to purl with only the slightest compensation from the right needle, that being whether you thread is in front of or behind the right needle as you are forming stitches. I feel like I had a knitting epiphany sitting right there on my back porch! Why are they not teaching this in any of the books or on-line resources I’ve encountered? It seems it ought to be at least taught as another option.

Of course, despite the time difference I resolved at once to call Berit in Oslo and thank her profusely for sending the video. I finally “got it” and will be eternally grateful for learning how to knit the “best and most comfortable” way (at least for me), as those in Norway knit, from her feet. As I told her on the phone, I’d kiss her a thousand times in thanks if she was here, so she better be glad she’s there! I asked Berit if I had her permission to post the video she sent me so that others I know who knit might avail themselves of the superior method, should they chose to do so. In her customarily generous way, she said I could use the video however I saw fit. So I am doing what any good and newly-minted disciple does, I’m spreading the gospel – in this case, the gospel of Norwegian purling. If you’ve never tried it, you really should. Those Norwegians, I swear, the really are the most clever people, aren’t they! So today I bless every Norwegian I see – which is pretty easy, considering I see one every few minutes! And for the rest of you who want to learn how to knit this way, I have converted the original AVI file I received into smaller files. I have a Windows Media version, and a MPG version. If these don’t work for you, let me know and I will try to work with you to figure out what version will work for you. I really want you to try this, OK? Here they are:

Norwegian Purling (Windows Media version) – 7 MB

Norwegian Purling (MPG version) – 12.7 MB

And honestly, Berit, because I know you see this blog – a thousand blessings on you and Jan. You’ll never know how grateful I am for the trouble you went to.

Knitting quote du jour

I am one of those people that when I take up a new hobby, I like to read the “classics” in the field, both so I can get up to speed and so that I don’t appear completely ignorant when the subjects come up. So I took up Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Without Tears because of its numerous recommendations. I find her sense of humor utterly delightful, although I am only a few pages into the book so far. I offer you these words on this last day of summer:

Properly practiced, knitting soothes the troubled spirit, and it doesn’t hurt the untroubled spirit either.

When I say properly practiced, I mean executed in a relaxed manner, without anxiety, strain, or tension, but with confidence, inventiveness, pleasure and ultimate pride.

If you hate to knit, why, bless you, don’t; follow your secret heart and take up something else. But if you start out knitting with enjoyment, you will probably continue in this pleasant path.

Consider the agreeable material and tools.

. . . . . . .

Really, all you need to become a good knitter are wool, needles, hands, and slightly below-average intelligence. Of course superior intelligence, such as yours and mine, is an advantage.

Now, really, how can you not love this woman?

My first little hat … ain’t it cute?

My first little hat

While at the State Fair last month, I bought this yarn at the booth from the Minnesota Lamb and Wool Producers Association. The yarn came from a producer called Shepherd’s Choice located in Wyoming, MN. I just loved the colors and had to have it, despite the fact that it cost $20 for a 120 yarn hank. I started this simple little hat on Sunday afternoon, using a “Knitting Pure & Simple” pattern that I bought on Sunday when I went with my Sister Woman (that’s Tennessee Williams’ speak for sister-in-law) to All About Yarn in Coon Rapids after a friend kept recommending it. Hats work up wonderfully quick, and Lord knows we need ’em here in Minnesota! I just got a pom-pom maker tonight from Joann’s and I highly recommend you try the Doodle Loom next time you need to make pom-poms. Now, I’m supposed to turn the edge in two inches and sew in a hem, but I kind of like the funky, slightly ‘deconstructed’ look of the rolled edge. Harald said it makes it look like a flapper hat. What do you think? Send me a comment and tell me which treatment you prefer.

Norwegian Mittens

No, no, no. I did not create these delightful, delectable, delicious, degorgeous mittens. They were knit for Harald and me by Berit & Turid, two longtime family friends from Norway who were recently here for a visit – wonderful women I am already anxious to see again. But for those of you who hadn’t yet seen these (or couldn’t, because you are too ding-dang far away), I wanted to share the photos. The pattern and workmanship are exquisite and they were a surprising and much-appreciated gift.

This pair with the deer on them are, I think, going to be Harald’s.

This pair with the traditional snowflake pattern are going to be for me – I hope.

Then again, we always swap them whenever we want!

My first pair of socks

It seems only fitting to give those who are interested a peek into my recent knitting obsession. This is the first pair of socks I am making, a result of careful teaching from a friend in St. Paul who makes oodles of socks.

Here is sock 1. I’ve done the ribbing, body, heel flap, and I’ve turned the heel. I’ve yet to do the gusset and rest of the sock. That’s why it looks unfinished. As soon as I get sock 2 to the same place, my friend is coming over for my next sock lesson.

And here is sock 2. Having been adequately warned about the dangers of “second sock syndrome” – where you finish the first sock and not having started the second sock, never do – and so I’ve cast on for this sock as well and am getting the ribbing done. Kind of putzy, but it’s a nice change to work at slower pace and on a smaller scale.

You know, I’ve always been so impressed when I see someone working on some knitting that has four or five needles all going at the same time. It always looked so awesome and so intimidating. So it gives me no small thrill to be able to see those same needles in my own hands at night. What can I say – I thrill easily over certain things – yarn being among them.

I’ll post pictures of my Einstein Coat once it looks like something other than a very long and very wide scarf. I’m almost ready to begin the front panels.


OK, it looks like I am quickly becoming something of a knitnut. Maybe it’s because most of my life I wished I knew how to knit and now that I am actually doing it, I can’t believe it. Or maybe its the pace and rhythm of knitting that is so appealing to me. Maybe it’s because I find knitting to be a completely absorbing and totally relaxing hobby. Maybe it’s just the sparkle and shine of a new toy, a new infatuation. Perhaps it’s some undecipherable combination of all of the above. Whatever it is, I’m pretty much hooked. H said to me something along the lines of “Is it good to have 5 projects all going at once when you are only a beginner?” A valid question, to be sure. But since when I have always taken the most rational approach?

Last night my friend Anne came over after work and we had dinner together and she and I took off to check out the Yarn Cafe in Maple Grove. The web site looked so interesting. Sadly, the store, for the most part, left me unimpressed and uninspired. Oh, don’t get me wrong, the staff lady was very nice and very helpful. But, for instance, we were there to buy some double-pointed knitting needles because my friend was going to show me how to start making socks. They didn’t have the first pair of size 1.5 or 2s in the whole store. They had a few 0s and 1s, but then most of their stock jumped to size 3.5 or 5. And the selection of sock yarn? In a word, disappointing. No, that’s not emphatic enough. Dismall – that’s better.

We soon left and after calling and making a few wrong turns, ended up at Amazing Threads which completely lives up to the expectation implied in its name. I saw at least two dozen things I really, really, really wanted to buy. And the most scrumptious, delicious, feasting-on-color selections of yarns I’ve encountered. Never mind how far away it is from me (and it’s not that bad since it’s a straight shot up 169), I am craving to go back to this shop again. Two of the nicest and most helpful salespeople I’ve encountered lately combined with the stunning collection to create a true experience. You can rest assured I will be back there to shop the next time I need yarn. I will still shop at Needlework Unlimited in Edina simply because they are close, convenient, have a huge selection, and I have their frequent-shopper card.

Meanwhile, in for a penny, in for a pound. I’ve contacted The Knitters Guild and plan to attend their September meeting and maybe even join – especially now that I am re-upping with my fiber groups like Minnesota Quilters. Yesterday my copy of this book arrived and I’m enjoying reading it and getting ideas for future patterns. iPod cozy anyone? I’m still waiting on Debbie Bliss’s Baby Knits for Beginners to arrive after looking at my quilt buddy Karen’s copy last weekend on the quilt retreat.

But I really need to get back and finish those three scarves I have going on, the Einstein Coat from Sally Melville’s book and the socks I got started last night.

Oh, and how could I forget. Three news sites to report are now in my favorites.


Men Who Knit


But I’m not obsessive-compulsive about this knitting thing, right?